This past Monday I attended my friend’s 50th birthday party. This was an evening like none other, with a red carpet, an emcee, photo booth, DJ, dancing, and a full dinner. Friends and family came from California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, and even the Bahamas. It was a spectacular event. Not only was attention given to even the smallest details, but the atmosphere was also one of love and honor for a special friend. The two younger brothers had organized the night, and they escorted their big sister with smiles, laughter and hugs. It was an unforgettable experience. One particular thing the birthday girl mentioned in her speech that stood out to me was, “Thank you for marking this moment.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish rabbi, theologian and philosopher who marched in the Civil Rights Movement, says:
"People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is a passive state—it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle.... Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one's actions." – The Wisdom of Heschel
Heschel points out the difference between celebration and entertainment. Celebration is active; entertainment is passive. The people of the Old Testament took action by building altars to the Lord. These piled stones became places of worship, prayer, and remembrance.
This past Wednesday we had a launch party for Love In A Big World, complete with food and photos. Not only did this project involve people from various departments across the house, but it is also the first of many to use a customizable approach. Reflecting upon the experience, a colleague said, “That was good. We need to do more of that.” However, we are often too busy with our work. We have moved on to the next thing, and we forget to acknowledge the wins.
Friends, we need to celebrate good times!
Celebration is Sabbath. Wayne Muller, author of Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Daily Lives, writes, “If busyness can become a kind of violence, we do not have to stretch our perception very far to see that Sabbath time — effortless, nourishing rest — can invite a healing of this violence. When we consecrate a time to listen to the still, small voices, we remember the root of inner wisdom that makes work fruitful.”
Celebration is gratitude, giving thanks for what we have and what others have done for us. There are documented physical, psychological and social benefits to being thankful. Grateful people are happy people, and happy people are more fun to be around.
There is life-giving power in celebration, and we as believers need to be carriers of joy. I’m not talking about a fabricated smile on a rainy day. I’m talking about deep, down “it is well with my soul” joy that comes from knowing that Jesus is the Resurrection and the life, the One who turns our mourning into dancing. Will you celebrate with me?